As the Summer of Bowls continues to roll on, it was two former New Zealand representatives Mandy Boyd and Kirsten Edwards showing their wares in taking out the 2022 Digga Stoke Stakes Women’s Pairs in Nelson.
Hosted by the Stoke Bowling Club, the event marks the first of three high profile events taking place at the top of the South Island, with the Nelson Premier Fours and the Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs to follow in the coming days.
In recent seasons, the events have proven to be a strong drawcard for some of the nation’s best bowlers, with lucrative prize pools and high-end competition luring players from all corners of the country to test their skills and chase the chocolates.
Kicking off the action, the Stoke Stakes Women’s Pairs put on an impressive showing for rinkside spectators and those watching on the livestream, with some top level play taking place over three days amongst 16 formidable pairings.
Following two days of qualifying, each of the two section winners progressed directly to the semi-finals, while the next two top from each section emerged to a play-off structure in a bid to claim a semi-finals berth on the third and final day. Some passing rain on day two halted progress temporarily, though with some quick action from club volunteers and the ongoing patience of the players, play was able to resume in short order soon after.
The final saw Boyd and Edwards go head-to-head with McIlroy and Bruce - both combinations having topped their sections and going on to comfortably win their way through to the grand finale in their respective semi-final fixtures.
Beaten semi-finalists were Selina Goddard and Leeane Poulson, and reigning Australian Open Women’s Pairs champions Olivia Bloomfield and Paris Baker. Other qualifiers included Debbie White (Mary Campbell) and Kay Hammond (Di Holland).
Best friends off the green, Boyd and Edwards’ communication was clear and both looked relaxed as they held their nerve to take out the win by a solitary point, 16-15.
Equally classy were the Blackjack-esque combination of McIlroy and Bruce - both also New Zealand representatives in their own right, with Bruce recently returning home from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with two bronze medals, while McIlroy was a member of Boyd’s bronze medal four at the 2014 Glasgow games.
In the final, both combinations traded shots sparingly throughout the 18 ends, with a two-count on the final end proving enough for Boyd and Edwards to secure the Janis Reynolds Trophy and pocket the $4000 winners’ cheque.
Some fantastic skipping and conversion shot play from Boyd will undoubtedly raise the questions around any possible return looming on the horizon for New Zealand, though for now, Boyd and Edwards can enjoy a hard-fought victory among the country’s best.
All attention will now turn to the Nelson Premier Fours, set to get underway on Tuesday.
Check out the Bowls New Zealand broadcast of 'finals day', below: